Spiraling Up – and What That Means for Leaders

All day long, you get to pick whether you are in a good mood or a bad mood. You also get to pick who are you going to spend your time with.

This may sound obvious, but your mood and the moods of others have a huge impact on you as a leader. I know some leaders who avoid talking to certain people – even lucrative clients – because they know what they’re going to get – a negative attitude and nonstop complaining.

Many people are completely unaware of their moods and how it affects others. As I’ve written before, emotions are contagious . If you and I meet for coffee, and I’m happy and filled with energy, you will catch some of what I’m feeling and spiral up.

The opposite is also true. When you and I meet for coffee, we might interact with a barista who is frowning, muttering under his breath, and being rude to his coworkers. Our high energy might plummet as we spiral down.

So while it’s great to be aware of your mood, it’s also helpful to be aware if you’re spiraling up or spiraling down. The graphic below illustrates this beautifully.

Emotional Guidance Scale.jpg


Boredom, overwhelm, worry and discouragement (among many others) trigger a downward spiral.

Joy, love, enthusiasm and contentment trigger an upward spiral.

I believe we are either going up or down at all times – we are never stagnant. If you feel yourself going down, you can stop it. As I said above, you can choose your mood at any given time.

And that brings me to an exercise that will raise your awareness of whether you are spiraling up or spiraling down.

First, ask how you’re feeling and how you’re showing up.

Next, consider where you are on the Emotional Guidance Scale. If you are you spiraling up, great. If you are spiraling down, what emotion would you rather feel? What can you do right now to feel that?

Finally, try a group exercise to raise everyone’s awareness about mood. Ask your team what they think you’re feeling. And then go around the room and guess each other’s moods.

As you practice noticing your mood, you will become a better leader. You will be more in tune with how you are showing up and impacting your team, and you will be better able to stop a downward spiral.